Oct 21, 2020 Letters
Kaieteur News – Recently, there have been spates of appointments (intended to replace disappointments) more conspicuously at the levels of a) Permanent (?) Secretary and b) Regional Executive Officer. It is uncertain whether these transitions were effected as part of a transformational process of the Public Service as a whole.
There may be those who would have recollected that between 2002 and 2004, at least two Public Sector Modernisation Projects were undertaken by the Government of Guyana.
The vision, which resulted from extensive discussion, was expressed as follows: “Within ten (10) years, the Guyana Public Service will be a customer driven institution providing quality services for the economic stability and sustained development of Guyana through the 21st century. The Public Service will be small, comparatively well paid, efficient and effective, undertaking planning, supervisory and regulatory functions, facilitating and encouraging investment and the Private Sector; and operating within sustainable cost limits related to national economic performance.”
In the Consultancy Report of May 2002, the then Minister of Public Service was quoted, amongst other things, as follows: “The advent of globalisation and its adverse effects on the global economy has made it indisputably necessary for governments to reform the public services. It must be recognised that a radically different way of doing things in the public services must be adapted. The new era will require a more flexible institution and the emphasis must be on strategic approaches to planning. The informed public sector therefore must be infused with new values, a higher sense of mission and purpose, and be totally conceptualised with a spirit of new professionalism. There must be a new management style of getting results.”
The study identified five cornerstones on which to modernise Guyana’s Public Sector Management, namely:
i) Strengthen policy development and coordination;
ii) Build performance management and evaluation structure;
iii) Establish a new human resources management infrastructure;
iv) Develop a management framework for arm’s length agencies, and strengthen their accountability;
Unfortunately, the extant evidence is that nobody governing (or indeed opposing) seems to be aware of the recommended new dispensation.
So that with all the talk about human resources management, Guyana, of all the Caricom countries (and indeed the rest of the world), can still boast of Personnel Officers:
Officer II & I
– a cumulative effrontery to the concept and practice of Human Resources Management.
Most of the incumbents therefore have but little sapiential, moral or organisational authority to develop any human resources within their respective Ministries.
In the meantime the Government of Guyana, over past decades, has substantively restructured the definition and image of the ‘public servant’; while effectively emasculating the constitutional process by which the latter should be recruited, developed and promoted.
The platform of ‘pensionable’ public service has shifted very fundamentally to that of a playing field for ‘contracted employees’ – gratuitously (to use a bad pun) compensated at the rate of 22.5% of negotiable salary every six months, instead of a pension.
The foregoing of course hold a number of human resources implications, amongst which the following are included:
i) The rationale for giving priority to recruitment on contract rather than a pensionable employment basis, more so without the formulation of a policy that ensures consistency of application;
ii) Having by-passed the constitutional authority of the Public Service Commission, there appears no credible alternative regulatory mechanism for monitoring the efficacy of the recruitment process;
iii) The rapidity of expansion of this grouping gives cause for enquiring about:
the precision of Job Descriptions, if any;
the consistency of specifications for even the same job in different Agencies;
the competency of interviewing panels (if in fact there are such functionaries who in any case may have also been contracted);
how explicitly formalised are the accountability relationships;
the existence of an effective performance evaluation process, particularly since the half-yearly gratuity payable to ‘contract employees’ is normally based on what is euphemistically described as ‘satisfactory performance’;
despite the fact that the ‘contract’ arrangement facilitates easy separation on either side, it does, however, leave the more effective performer disposed to movement to greener markets;
implying a certain vulnerability to the particular agency’s ability to sustain the level of needed delivery capacity;
the potentially discomfiting issue of ‘contracted employee’ and traditional ‘public servant’ performing the same duties alongside each other, with the latter being disadvantageously compensated, given the element of bargaining embedded in the recruitment process of the former.
With the Public Service Commission having been by-passed, it may not be unreasonable to assume that the recently rushed appointees have been employed on contract – consistently defiant of the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry Report on the Public Service to, so to speak, ‘re-traditionalise longevity of employment’ so that there could be reasonable predictability of sustainable quality services to taxpayers, so fundamentally by-passed.
The confusion inherent in a disaggregation of ‘pensionable’ from ‘contracted’ employment must obviously spill over into any system (if at all existing) of measuring performance. The first group just bides time for pension; the other may just possibly be incentivised by the prospect of gratuity at the rate of 22.5% of salary, payable every six months. When they work alongside one another at the same job, it provides for an imbalanced measurement of performance.
The fact is, however, that any performance evaluation system that existed in the Public Service has long disappeared. Indeed it is unheard of by most current employees, but for exceptional disciplinary cases.
Tax-paying clients can therefore reasonably ask what coordinated systems and procedures are utilised to identify strengths and weaknesses within, and across, Public Service Agencies in order to inform grounds for structured remedial action, as well as for training and developmental interventions.
In the latter regard, questions may reasonably be asked about the data used to identify:
specific groups and levels of under-performers
specific individuals or groups of potentials for growth
the formulation of appropriate developmental programmes to address perceived weaknesses
personnel with relevant competencies to undertake the required examinations and remedial actions
in turn the capacity to select the latter
It is in relation to the above uncertainties that concerned professionals must insist on the substantive reformation of the Personnel Function in the Guyana Public Service to that of the Human Resources Function practised in counterpart Public Sector Agencies, but more so critically recognisable by the increasing numbers of resident foreign companies; as well as contrasting with long years of application by regional and international agencies and governments. Guyana’s is an unenviable exception. As aforementioned our budget still carries:
Chief Personnel Officer
Principal Personnel Officer
Senior Personnel Officer
Personnel Officer II & I
Quite possibly, all in need of not only relevant training, but at the higher levels of developing relevant leadership capability.
It may therefore not be so bad an idea to challenge the new Permanent Secretaries and Regional Executive Officers to team up with colleagues to conceptualise an effective transformational programme – in their own interests as team leaders.
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